06/06/2012 11:56AM

Woodbine: Hard Not to Like will miss Queen's Plate with undisclosed injury

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Michael Burns
Hard Not to Like will probably be sidelined for the rest of her 3-year-old season, but is expected to resume racing next year.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario — Hard Not to Like, the talented 3-year-old filly who had been pointing for the Queen’s Plate, will not make the June 24 race.

“She has an issue that needs to be dealt with,” said Gail Cox, who trains the homebred Hard Not to Like for Garland Williamson. “She’s gone to the farm, and she’s probably going to need some minor surgery. Hopefully, we’re going to have her back toward the end of the year.”

Hard Not to Like won 3 of 5 starts at 2, all on the turf. Her successes included victories over males in an open allowance race and in the 1 1/16-mile Cup and Saucer Stakes for Canadian-breds, and she wound up her campaign with a fifth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Churchill Downs.

After wintering with Cox at Payson Park, Hard Not to Like was a solid second when making her Polytrack debut in Keeneland’s Grade 1 Ashland on April 7.

Hard Not to Like continued north to Woodbine but then shipped to Louisville for the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at 1 1/8 miles and finished sixth of 14 in her first dirt appearance.

When Hard Not to Like took time to recover from that effort, Cox had elected to bypass last Sunday’s $500,000 Woodbine Oaks for 3-year-old fillies and train the filly up to the Queen’s Plate.

“I was really looking forward to it,” said Cox, who had sent out Hard Not to Like to breeze four furlongs in 47.20 seconds last Tuesday in her first workout since the May 4 Kentucky Oaks. “I’ve never run a horse in the Queen’s Plate.

“She’s a major filly. It’s a shame to lose her 3-year-old year. But, she should be a major filly next year.”

Stait of Dover appears fully healthy

The news was much more encouraging from the camp of Strait of Dover, who had missed last Sunday’s 1/8-mile Plate Trial due to a minor blood disorder.

“He’s perfect; good as he could be,” said Danny Vella, after watching Strait of Dover gallop two miles on Wednesday morning.

Strait of Dover had announced himself as a leading candidate for the 1 1/4-mile Queen’s Plate with a 6 1/2-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile Marine Stakes here May 12 and had been scheduled to prep for the $1 million Queen’s Plate in the Plate Trial.

“If we hadn’t pulled the bloods on him last week he would have seemed fine,” said Vella, who trains the homebred Strait of Dover for the British Columbia-based Canyon Farm of Wally and Terri Leong. “We might even have run him, and maybe he would have been okay.

“He had a slightly low white cell count. He might have had a little ‘bug’, or just been getting over one.”

Strait of Dover passed his blood test this week and is scheduled to breeze here Sunday under regular rider Justin Stein.

“We’ll pull another ‘blood’ next week, just to be sure,” said Vella.

Courtville gets green light for Bold Ruckus

Courtville, an Ontario-sired 3-year-old who is owned and trained by Laurie Silvera, was nominated to both stakes races here this weekend.

Saturday’s feature, the $125,000 Bold Ruckus, is a six-furlong turf race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds while Sunday’s is the $150,000 Victoria Park, an open race for the same age group.

“I’m opting for the easier spot,” said Silvera, who entered Courtville in the Bold Ruckus on Wednesday morning.

Courtville, purchased for $5,000 at the open local yearling sale, appeared to have made a winning debut in an open maiden race at five furlongs here last Aug. 14 but was disqualified and placed second.

“Things went wrong after that race,” said Silvera.

Courtville did graduate at 5 1/2 furlongs while returning to action six weeks later but finished fourth as a leading contender in both the six-furlong Bull Page and seven-furlong Frost King. Those three starts came in Ontario-sired company.

“He had soundness issues,” said Silvera, adding that problems persisted when he took Courtville to Classic Mile for the off-season.

“He wasn’t right,” said Silvera. “He was refusing to even gallop in the mornings, to the extent that I couldn’t get a rider to get him out of the shed row.

“For a month, when he should have been training, he was jogging in the shed row. He was resentful of training, I believe, because of discomfort.”

The source of Courtville’s problems eluded both Silvera and the veterinarians who examined the gelding.

“Up to this point, I have no idea of what went wrong,” said Silvera. “I just knew he wasn’t traveling right.

“But, since he got back here he’s got over it completely.”

Courtville opened up the meeting with a closing fourth-place finish in a restricted seven-furlong allowance on April 13 and returned slightly more than three weeks later to clear that condition in a 1 1/16-mile race in which he rallied from seventh place under Omar Moreno.

Silvera, however, does not seem particularly concerned that Courtville will have to deal with both a cutback in distance and a new surface in the Bold Ruckus.

“I have no doubt about his speed,” said Silvera. “And I’m convinced that horses that run well on Polytrack will run well on turf.

“I intended to breeze him on turf, but when the rains came and canceled turf training I breezed him on the main track.”

Atlantic Hurricane resumes training

Atlantic Hurricane, last year’s champion female sprinter, breezed four furlongs in 48.80 here Wednesday morning under exercise rider Brian Dante.

The workout was the first for Atlantic Hurricane since she did not make an expected appearance in the May 19 Hendrie Stakes.

“She just wasn’t herself,” said Stu Simon, trainer and part-owner of the 5-year-old Atlantic Hurricane. “We drew a ‘blood’, and it was off..

“She was out for eight or nine days on the farm, and she’s been back in training for 10 days. Her work was very encouraging.”

Atlantic Hurricane had finished third when making her 2011 debut in the April 22 Whimsical and Simon has no definite plan for her next appearance.

“We’ll breeze her a couple more times, and see where we are,” said Simon.

◗ Woodbine will be marking the Triple Crown bid of I’ll Have Another and jockey Mario Gutierrez with several promotions, including live entertainment and T-shirt and souvenir cup giveaways. Both the T-shirts, which were made in Mexico, and the cups are emblazoned with the slogan “Uno Mas Mario!”

◗ Advance wagering on the Belmont card will open at 3 p.m. Friday at all Woodbine Entertainment Group locations. Pick three, pick four, and pick six wagering will not be available until the conclusion of Belmont’s Friday card.